SALT LAKE CITY — Quin Snyder took the podium in a slightly surprising mood.
He was optimistic.
“It’s not the result we want obviously,” Snyder said, “but I thought we gave a really really pure good effort. I think you could feel it watching the game.”
Wednesday night did feel different.
Mike Conley wrestled on the ground for the ball. Donovan Mitchell emotionally screamed at midcourt in celebration. The Jazz had at least a pulse defensively.
The result, though, was the same. The Jazz lost to the Celtics 114-103 on Wednesday at Vivint Arena and the team is now 0-4 since the All-Star break. Utah is now 36-22 on the season.
But, hey, at least it looked like they cared this time, right?
“I mean we are all bummed, but I think overall we picked it up on the defensive end, which was one of the main emphasis that coach was talking about before the game,” Royce O’Neale said. “We had stretches where we didn’t play defense, but it happens.”
It happened less on Wednesday than it had been. Utah had been embarrassed in its first three games after the break. The Spurs punked the Jazz, the Rockets humiliated them, and the Suns, well, that was when the worry really started to mount. Wednesday’s felt more like a normal loss. The Jazz played well for the majority of three quarters and got beat by a team that hit a few more shots.
Led by a superstar-like performance from Jayson Tatum, Boston shot 53.6% from the field and 42.3% from the 3-point line. Tatum finished with 33 points and 11 rebounds and the Celtics outscored the Jazz by 8 in the final quarter to pull away for the win.
“We competed defensively,” Mitchell said. “I think we can hang our hats on that, but now it is about sustaining it for 48 minutes. I don’t think that we should be upset about our effort, just little mistakes that we can fix. They’re a good team. They are going to capitalize if you make mistakes.”
Mitchell’s own stellar night couldn’t mask all those mistakes.
In the second quarter, Mitchell flexed and screamed at midcourt as he and Tatum went back and forth in an exhilarating offensive display. It was the type of emotion that has been absent since the All-Star break.
Mitchell scored 20 points in the second quarter and finished with 37 on the night. Tatum put up 18 in that frame. The difference, though, was that in the end, Tatum got some help.
Bojan Bogdanovic had just 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting, Joe Ingles finished with just 2 points on three shots and Rudy Gobert finished a frustrating offensive night with 9 points. The Jazz shot 45% from the field and were 12 of 40 from the 3-point line.
As for the Celtics, they had Jaylen Brown’s 20 points, Marcus Smart’s 17, Daniel Theis’ 16 and Gordon Hayward's 12.
“Donovan is doing everything he can,” Snyder said. “He led us in assists tonight. We’ve got some guys that we believe in and are going to find it. That’s all of us as much as anything. That’s why it’s a team game. The message is really that simple. Everybody keep playing and keep competing, play together, play hard and play defense.”
Mitchell’s performance brought some much-needed energy, yes, but that didn’t help the Jazz step up and stop Smart as he buried three straight triples in the fourth quarter. Or help them pressure Tatum. Or keep the Jazz from surrendering 91 points over the final three quarters.
The mistakes ended up outweighing the positives.
But at least, for the first time since the All-Star break, there were some positives.
“I felt differently about tonight’s game compared to the games we have played the last couple games,” Snyder said. “Not a moral victory in that sense at all, but a team that is just going to keep working and keep finding it and keep getting better from where we were two nights ago.”